by Matt Konkle
Throughout her life, Jessi Combs was known for a lot of things—mentor, skilled builder and fabricator, television personality and talented race car driver. Now, she will be remembered for something else as well.
Fastest woman on Earth.
Guinness World Records posthumously awarded Combs a new world speed record recently, after accepting an average of speeds she achieved during two successful jet-powered car runs in the Oregon desert last August.
Combs clocked an average of 522.783 miles-per-hour in those runs, and was aiming to push that amount even higher in a third attempt before the accident that claimed her life. She was 39.
Her average speed was fast enough to beat the previous 512.710 mph record set by Kitty O'Neil in 1976 in a three-wheeled rocket-powered vehicle, thus making Combs the first woman to set a new land speed record in over 40 years.
Combs’ close friend and teammate Terry Madden posted on his Instagram account "no record could ever be worth her not being here".
"But it was a goal that she really wanted - and as hard as it is for me to even look at the car without crying. I'm so proud of her," he posted. "She woke up that morning to an alarm saying 'let's make history' and we had an absolutely amazing day."
Combs achieved the feat on the Alvord Desert, a flat, dry lake bed measuring 84 square miles in southeastern Oregon. Her two successful runs clocked at 515.346 mph and 548.432 mph.
While Combs may be best known for her appearances on the TV shows ‘Xtreme 4x4’, ‘Mythbusters’, ‘All Girls Garage', ‘Overhaulin', as well as many others, she also competed in numerous motorsports events—including the Baja 1000 and King of the Hammers. Her first-place finish at the 2016 King of the Hammers earned her the nickname ‘Queen of Hammers.’
She also achieved the title of 'Fastest Woman on Four Wheels' after breaking 398 mph in her jet-powered North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger back in 2013.
According to the Harney County (Ore.) Sheriff’s Office, Combs’ vehicle crashed due to "a mechanical failure of the front wheel, most likely caused from striking an object on the desert.” The office determined this failure occurred while Combs’ car was moving at speeds approaching 550 mph. The vehicle burst into flames following the crash.
Not only was Combs a driving force in the racing and motorsports community, but she also served as a role model to both men and women throughout the industry—traveling around the country to many events such as the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) event in Las Vegas, Nevada to interact with her fans.
"Jessi was known for her bright smile, positivity, and tenacious pursuit of the fulfillment of her dreams," Combs’ family said in a statement following her death. "Her drive was infectious, and she served as a role model for young Girls, and Women around the world. People that loved her and followed her became family, all bonded together by adventure and passion. Her fans adored her, and she lived to inspire them. Jessi’s most notable dream was to become the fastest woman on Earth, a dream she had been chasing since 2012.
"Combs was one of the rare dreamers with the bravery to turn those possibilities into reality, and she left this earth driving faster than any other woman in history."